Israel and the media
A letter to the editor of the magazine Rauhan puolesta - on the subject of rewriting history in the Middle East
The following article is, in fact, a letter I sent to the editorial board of Rauhan puolesta. This publication is one example of how Israel often appears only in a negative sense in the media. In addition, the related history may have been distorted.
The subject of the letter is the decades-long crisis in the Middle East, namely the situation in Israel and the Palestinians. In this matter, we can easily lean in only one direction, and I admit that I myself may be to blame this. However, I see that Israel’s boycott and hostility to it is often unfair. History also shows that accusations against Jews can lead to uncontrolled violence. This danger is worth considering because it has been repeated so often throughout history.
I happened to get my hands on Rauhan puolesta magazine. There was a lot of good in it about the work of peace. Personally, of course, I hope there is peace in the world and there are no conflicts. Unfortunately, we are far from this ideal.
However, I see that your attitude in Israel-Palestinian conflict is unfair and biased (I myself, too, am certainly biased and blind to see things in the right light). I do not want to belittle the Palestinians and their dignity, but it is also worth considering the following aspects of history.
The refugee problem. In your magazine (5/2015) is said as follows:
p. 7 Israel's bloody policy of occupying the Palestinian territories has driven millions of people into exile. (Markku Kangaspuro, Chairman of the Rauhan puolustajat)
p. 13 Most of the people who fled Syria to Palestinian camps in Lebanon were families whose families had to flee the persecution of Israel in 1948. (Ilona Junka, President of Arabikansojen ystävyysseura [Akys])
Have things really happened as the previous quotes say?
First, the number of refugees in 1948 was not millions but, according to official estimates, about 600,000 to 700,000. Today, about 30,000 of them are alive, so the figures for millions of refugees are exaggerated. The descendants of Refugees are not considered Refugees, as has not been the case in other refugee problems.
Then why did the refugee problem arise? The reason was that the Jews accepted the UN recommendations on the division of land and seized the opportunity to gain independence, but the so-called The Palestinian Arabs, along with the rest of the Arab world, vehemently rejected the division proposal. If the proposal had been approved by them, the so-called The Palestinian Arabs had their own state for about 60 years, there would have been no Wars and no refugee problem. However, when the allocation plan was rejected, these far-reaching problems arose. The two-state model was already available at that time, but Arabs rejected it because they wanted everything for themselves. As a result, the surrounding Arab states immediately began a war against the new state. They attacked a legally established state with the aim of destroying it and dividing the countries among themselves. The Palestinian state and its establishment were not talked about by the Arabs at that time, but were intended to destroy the new state. It also started a wave of Palestinian Refugees. They fled before the war (actually from the British Mandate area) and after the war began. Yet about 150,000 Arabs remained in the newly formed state of Israel. The Israeli Declaration of Independence called on the Arabs to build the state of Israel together with the Jews.
The main reason for the refugee problem was the Arabs ’own propaganda. They urged their Arab Brothers to get out of the way of war, because then there would be an unhindered opportunity to Conquer the country and because in the middle of complete Destruction, it would be difficult to know who is Jewish and who is Arab. Most of the Arabs obeyed the call, but about 150,000 remained.
What about the idea that Arabs were forcibly deported by Jews? This is a completely impossible idea because there was a 40% Arab minority in the country. How would their deportation have been successful because there were hundreds of thousands of Arabs? In no way. The official policy of Israel was such that the Arabs were urged to stay in the country and build the state of Israel together with Jews.
When the war began after Israel becoming independence, there were also plenty of journalists in the country. They had come to witness a massacre in which the Arab countries would destroy the newly established Jewish state. They did not mention anything about refugee problem and how the Jews had driven them into exile. Nor was it mentioned by Arab leaders in international fora, although at that time most of arabs left the land - not even Jamal Hussein, uncle of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Arab Spokesman who spoke at the UN before Israel's declaration of independence mentioned anything about refugees. Instead, it was considered certain that the new state would be destroyed within a few weeks, and that the refugees could then return. Here are a few comments from Arabs ’own sources. They show how the biggest cause of the refugee problem was Arabs' own propaganda. The first is a statement by Mahmoud Abbas, the current leader of the Palestinian Authority:
The Arab armies attacked Palestine with the intention of protecting the Palestinians, but instead they rejected them, forcing them to leave the country. (Current President of the PA Mahmoud Abbas, Falastin al Thaura, 1976, quoted in the Wall Street Journal on June 5, 2003)
We the refugees (…) left our homeland because we trusted in the crooked leaders of the Arab states and their deceitful promises. They promised us that our absence would take no longer than two weeks; it would be like a trip, after which we would return. (Jordanian newspaper Falastin, 30 May 1955)
Those Arab states that advised Palestinian Arabs to leave their homes temporarily at the time of the attack and occupation have broken their promise to help these refugees. (Jordanian newspaper Falastin 19 February 1949)
Who brought the Palestinian refugees to Lebanon, where they now have to suffer the negative attitudes of the press and Arab leaders? These newspapers and leaders have no conscience or honor. Who was to blame for the fact that they were brought out of their country under terrible adversity, having lost their money and honor? The Arab states, Lebanon among them, are guilty. (Magazine Kul-Shay, Beirut 19 August 1951).
King Hussein, 17 January 1970: "The Arab leaders have used the nation of Palestine for their selfish political purposes. It is ridiculous, and I would even go so far as to say that it is criminal."
“Historic Palestine”. Your magazine (5/2015) reports as follows through Ramez Ansara:
By Nakba, the Palestinians mean the catastrophe that began in 1948, when the Israeli attack on the Palestinians led to a massive influx of refugees. To Ramallah came refugees from the four largest cities in historic Palestine: Lodi, Ramla, Jaffa, and Jerusalem.
Tolerance is not a new phenomenon in Palestine, in fact it represents an old practice. Palestine is one of the first agricultural societies in human history.
These kinds of claims are a distortion of history. The reason for this is simple: There are no known evidence from the past about the so-called Palestinian people or country that would have had its own rulers, army, money, language, clear recognizable borders and other characteristics suggesting the existence of a nation. These important attributes were missing completely. The name Palestine – Falastin in Arabic – has indeed existed as a name, but it was a name for an area that the Roman caesar Hadrianus gave to the Jewish state in 135 AD. At the same time Jerusalem got a new name, Aelia Capitolina.
Jews and also many others used the name Palestine in the early 1900s. The original name of the current Jerusalme Post magazine used to be The Palestine Post, i.a. Palestine Symphony Orchestra (later called Israeli Filharmonic Orchestra) was responsible for music, and electricity came from Palestine Electric Company. These terms show that it was about the land area and not about a people called Palestinians, which never existed. Arab executive Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi expressed in the raport he gave to the Peel committee in 1937: “Palestine is a term that the Zionists made up. We are Arabs and have belonged to Syria for centuries.”
Instead, history teaches that present-day Palestinians are Arabs who came from surrounding states. Many are descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, and most of them moved into the area during the past 150 years.
These people did not represent one nationality but several: Jordanian, Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Iraqi, etc. They arrived from neighbouring Arab states or (before the year 1917) from the former Turkish Ottoman region, which until a hundred years ago still had possession of most of the Arab states. They could not have had any kind of Palestinian identity at that time; neither was there any mention of any Palestinian identity made by neighbour Arab states. These mentions were made a lot later that is, after the 1967 war.
In this context, it is good to highlight a few verses of the New Testament. They are real history and they do not talk about the Palestinians yet, because no such name was known. Instead, they tell of the Jews who inhabited Jerusalem as well as Judea and Samaria, or the present West Bank. These are events from about 2000 years ago:
- (Acts 1:4-8) And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me.
5 For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said to them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power.
8 But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.
- (Acts 2:14) But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said to them, You men of Judaea, and all you that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known to you, and listen to my words:
Israeli occupation policy. Your magazine repeatedly refers to the so-called Israeli occupation policy. This issue can also be questioned because there has never been a state called Palestine. The current Palestinian territories have, in turn, been in the possession of various rulers, most recently e.g. Ottoman Turkey, the English Mandate, and the West Bank from 1948 to 1967 belonged to Jordan and Gaza to Egypt when they illegally conquered these territories. They were illegal occupiers. In addition, it is known that the West Bank and Gaza Strips were promised to Israel by the League of Nations in 1920. According to the Balfour Declaration (1917), they were among the areas where Jews were allowed to settle. This permit also included Jordan at the time, so the area originally promised to the Jews was quite large. The predecessor of the United Nations, the League of Nations, approved the Balfour Declaration and the boundaries of the mandate at the San Remo meeting on 24 April 1920.
It is also known that the West Bank and Gaza, which had previously been promised to Israel by the League of Nations, came to Israel during the 1967 war. This war was a defensive war that resulted in Israel gaining those territories. It was not about conquering a state called Palestine, because it never existed, but about lands that had been illegally occupied by Egypt and Jordan for almost 20 years. It is also noteworthy that immediately after the 1967 war, Israel promised to withdraw from all areas conquered in the war in exchange for peace and state recognition of Israel, but Jordan, Egypt, and Syria rejected the offer. As a result, a new war came as early as six years later, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when the Arab states attacked Israel again. So this is real history and shows how difficult the patterns in the Middle East are and how to the current situation has been come. The problem is really difficult and there are no simple solutions to it.
What is worth paying attention to now is that Palestinian identity and people are a relatively new thing. At the time of Israel's independence (1948), nothing was said about it. The Arabs did not mention anything about it, as it was not known at that time. These were the same Arabs as in the surrounding Arab states. Instead, the issue only came to the fore after the 1967 war, which Israel won, not before. These people, who represented several nationalities and whose parents came from the surrounding countries, did not acquire this new identity until these times. It was driven in particular by PLO representatives for tactical reasons, as they intended to use it in the fight against Israel. There was no long historical basis for this:
What seems to be less noted is the fact that neither during the years immediately preceding the war leading to Israel’s independence nor the years immediately after it was a state called Palestine ever named as the other party to the war. What was mentioned, instead, was that the objective of neighbour Arab states was to prevent the creation of a Jewish state and that their objective to absolutely destroy such a state regardless of any UN resolutions. The war in 1948 was not fought for the purpose of creating an independent state called Palestine. Instead the objective was to divide the land among the five attacking Arab states... Therefore, the idea of an independent and eternal state called Palestine came into being during the times after the summer war of 1967.Only after that were they actively developed. (1)
The following quote still refers to the same subject. Palestinian identity is a relatively new thing that emerged only after the 1967 war. The quote is from a former commander of the PLO armed forces, who says there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese:
Commander of the armed forces of PLO, Zuheir Moushin’s statement for a German magazine in Kairo, 1972: Palestinian people do not exist as it is. The creation of a Palestinian state is only one way to continue our fight against a Zionist country to support Arabian unity. In reality, there are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese people. Only due to political and tactical reasons we now speak of the existence of Palestinian people, because the consideration of the Arabian coutries’ national benefits require that we set a separate Palestinian people to oppose Zionism. See, merely from tactical point of view Jordania, which is a recognized and sovereign country with its own confirmed borders, cannot demand for Haifa, Jaffa, Ber-Sheva and Jerusalem, where as a Palestinian nation living inside Israel can undoubtedly do so. I want to highlight that in that moment, when we have seized all of Palestine, we instantly connect Palestine and Jordania. (2)
Human rights. Your magazine takes a stand on human rights, and with regard to the position of the Palestinians in the midst of the Jewish state, there is certainly still room for improvement. Nonetheless, I see that the Palestinians have received many good things under Israel: better health care, roads, water mains (Whereas in 1967 only 10% of West Bank residents received daily running water, the number is now 96%) and a better standard of living than before under Jordan and Egypt. The so-called Palestinians have also gained autonomy that they did not have when the same territories were under Ottoman Turkey, the British Mandate, or Egypt and Jordan. The following quote points to a few improvements:
Although the West coast Arabs do not politically accept Israel in their territory, it is no secret that they have recognized the Jews for making the health conditions better in the area. They noted that king Hussein promised – in paper – clinics, hospitals and schools for the area, but never went through with his promises during the 19 years that the area was under his rule. Arabs have then stated that, although Israel and the Jews never promised anything, they still did what Hussein was always only talking about, and they did it even in a bigger scale than the Arabs could gave ever anticipated. (3)
What about human rights? It is certainly true that Israel’s human rights are not perfect, but they are at a different level compared to many Arab countries and how Hamas and the Palestinian Authority treat their own minorities. Are you aware that Hamas and also the Palestinian Authority have imprisoned thousands of their own dissidents and also tortured and killed them? There are thousands of such cases and they have been reported by human rights organizations. It would be good to also pay attention to them and how the Palestinian Authority (along with Hamas) has called on its own citizens for terrorist attacks and paid money to the families of the perpetrators. In addition, martyrdom and hatred of Jews have been openly taught in Palestinian schools. Such information can be found on Arabic-language pages, but the information does not always flow to Western countries because of the language barrier.
So I ask, do you consider it good and right that Palestinian leaders support the killing of Jews and that martyrdom (suicide attacks) is glorified in schools, or that the current Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has denied the Holocaust when speaking to himself (part of his speech was shown on TV)? Do you think these things are good? Certainly most deny that they are good things. The situation will certainly not get better if leaders like the current one continue in office.
Security fence. Your magazine also takes a stand on the security fence, which has been called a wall, even though only a small part of it is the actual wall.
So where did the construction of this fence come from? Is it built to make life difficult for Palestinians, as mentioned in your paper, and is it some kind of apartheid wall, as presented in negative propaganda?
Here again, the facts should be taken into account. For the fact is that the Arabs have carried out thousands of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians (just as thousands of rockets have been sent from Gaza into Israeli territory). The safety fence has greatly reduced these shocks. For example, by December 2004, the number of suicide attacks from the West Bank fell by 84% in less than two years, a dramatic figure. So the security fence has been a shelter for Israeli civilians and can’t that be considered a good thing? Shouldn’t every person’s life be valued?
Checkpoints (there are similar security checks at airports too) and security fences are, of course, unfortunate things and complicate people’s lives, but are there better options as long as some people do not respect the right of others to live? Similar fences have been built elsewhere - e.g. Between India and Pakistan - to prevent violence and protect people.
BDS movement. Your magazine mentions the BDS movement, which is pushing for a complete boycott of Israel (also in the 1930s, the Nazis forbade buying from Jewish movements and drove a similar boycott) and which is supported by e.g. The Left youth.
So what is the background of the BDS movement? Many consider it just an ordinary civic movement, but there are well-known organizations behind it. Here is a quote from:
The Finnwatch report does not tell the reader that the international BDS movement is coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Council (BNC), whose list of members includes some very questionable names. BNC was established in 2007 to coordinate global operations in line with the movement's objectives. But which exactly are coordinating this activity?
The movement has a long list of organizations, religious communities, trade union movements and NGOs. However, a closer look at the list reveals something of particular concern. The first to be mentioned is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine. This body, set up by Yasser Arafat and Marwan Barghout, was tasked with coordinating terrorist activities and suicide attacks against Israel during the Second Uprising. In addition to various secular and religious parties, it includes, at the forefront, terrorist organizations such as Hamas, the PFLP and Islamic Jihad!
Reading the BNC's membership list gives the impression that it includes a large number of Palestinian NGOs, trade union movements and the like in various fields. However, a closer look at the lists has shown that many of the alleged member organizations do not appear to be real, but in some cases are even covert organizations of Hamas or other terrorist organizations! Overall, the BDS movement appears to be in fact in the hands of a few activists who coordinate activities in line with the goals of Palestinian extremist organizations.
Indeed, Alan Baker and Adam Shay aptly state in their writing that the goal of the BDS movement is (4):
“to manipulate people who, in general, are unfamiliar with the complex details and history of the disputed issues in the Middle East, and make them biased and hostile toward Israel. This target audience can thus easily and sincerely give their support and identify with any movement that ostensibly opposes apartheid, discrimination, inequality and colonialism. This movement is made up of a relatively small number of full-time, well-resourced anti-Israel activists… (5)
Christian faith. In this end, I will mention a few words about the Christian faith, to which you seem to have a rather negative attitude. This is evidenced by at least the cartoon on the back side of your magazine.
However, I am of the opinion that only the Christian faith, mingled with love and forgiveness, can be a solution to the problems between the Palestinian people and Jews (this I do not mean only the outward Christianity, which occurs especially in old churches, but whose members are not born again). Those people who truly receive Jesus Christ are better able to overcome their anger and forgive. Or at least in that direction we are guided, as Jesus and the apostles taught. We are called to repent of our wrong attitudes (Luke 13: 3… but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.). It is known that in Israel, respect for different ethnic groups is greatest among Messianic Jews as well as Arabs who have received Jesus. They have learned to accept different ethnic groups, even though they may have been taught in childhood to hate these. Living faith has changed these people. Among other things, terrorists have stopped terrorist activities.
- (Matt 5:44-47) But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if you salute your brothers only, what do you more than others? do not even the publicans so?
- (Rom 12:20,21) Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
My own background. I myself am a former atheist and evolutionary believer who sincerely believed in millions of years (I also had a positive attitude towards Palestinians and negative attitude towards Israel, as you have). Now I consider my former atheist thoughts and evolutionary stories (specifically the idea from one stem cell to human) as lies, fables, and fairy tales. I am convinced that the naturalistic theories about the beginning of the Universe and life, have nothing to do with science, and that the only reasonable explanation is the creative work of God. I have written about these things on my website, and tried to get people think about things. I understand that you, too, have preconceptions and negative perceptions of the Christian faith (the core of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ and our attitude towards him), but it would be good to think about how sensible they are. Do they have any basis? Above all, it is worth thinking about the eternal life we can receive as a gift but also lose it if we reject Jesus. I will end here with the words of Jesus related to the subject.
- (Matt 7:8) 8 For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.
- (John 7:17) 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
- (John 5:39,40) Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
40 And you will not come to me, that you might have life.
1. Pekka Sartola: Totuutena valhe, p. 279, 282
2. Sit. kirjasta "Totuutena valhe", Pekka Sartola, p. 278
3. Jukka Riippa: "Israel polttopisteessä", p. 179
4. Pasi Turunen: Kielletyt hedelmät, p. 42,43
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!